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  1. Assignment explanation (4.7 MB; 3 mins)
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We know that an epic reveals something about the character of a nation: the positive attributes of an epic hero are those that the members of his or her society hold most dear. In the Ramayana, Hanuman is celebrated for his heroics in leaping across to Lanka to help rescue Sita, and Rama is celebrated for his adherence to the rule of dharma, keeping such a straight path that his arrows never miss their mark. In Gilgamesh, although the main character is unreasonably strong, he is celebrated more for his knowledge, having traveled and brought back to Uruk the story of the days before the flood. In the Odyssey, the ancient Greeks celebrate the hero Odysseus for his cunning and his cleverness, shown in part by the building of the Trojan Horse—a giant statuary gift to their enemy, in which Greek soldiers hid. For this assignment, working in groups of five or six classmates, I want you to create an epic for Grambling State University.

Remember the traits of an epic as you work. An epic consists of some of the following ten traits:

  1. long narrative poem
  2. serious subject
  3. grand scale (covers a vast setting)
  4. high, elevated style
  5. larger-than-life hero
  6. begins in media res
  7. begins with an invocation
  8. concerned with the fate of a nation or people
  9. supernatural elements
  10. episodic

Unlike traditional epics, the epic your group creates will not be a long narrative poem; instead, it will tell its story by acting out on a video recording, which your group will shoot and upload online, editing it beforehand if you choose. Videos should be 6 to 10 minutes long, and they should be accompanied by one 700-1,000 word paper for each group, explaining some of the rationale for choices made for your epic.

First figure out what characteristics a "national" hero for the university might have. Take this opportunity as best you see fit. Perhaps your group wants to to think idealistically, presenting a hero who is constantly capable in the classroom and on the court. On the other hand, maybe you'd like to offer a commentary on the values held important by the "society" of Grambling's students, be they skills or swagger. You decide.

Next, establish what kind of quest the hero will go on. What is the problem he or she needs to solve? Most likely this quest will allow the hero's defining characteristics to stand out.

Beyond these matters, your group is on its own to think creatively. Keep in mind those characteristics traditional to epics, and choose accordingly which you'd like to highlight in your epic. You probably won't include all of them, but the most successful projects will keep many of these characteristics in mind during the planning stages. A well done video will have thought put into it before anything is shot, and some group members will serve as actors, while others may serve as script writers. Regardless, everyone in the group should participate. In addition to on-screen acting, the video might even include an offscreen narrator to fulfill the expectation of an epic being narrated. The choices are yours.